Thursday, 31 August 2023
When dedicated zero waste convenience stores started to bloom in bigger cities like Munich during the covid-19 spring of 2020 Bremen already had three established package-free shops, with a fourth one that opened its door early in 2020. Back then some of the shop keepers were afraid that there might be too many to survive in a city of the size of Bremen, and after the pandemic years it's not all sunshine for these small businesses. However, Bremen hasn't seen the same series of zero-waste shop closings cities like Munich have. Even when you run out of food on a Sunday you can grab your jars and boxes and set out for refill.
Dedicated package-free supermarkets
My favourite is crowd-funded L'Epicerie Bio in the Neustadt neighbourhood, just across Wilhelm Kaisen bridge. Lovingly decorated in the style of an old colonial shop you would find an abundance of food, spices, sweets and wine, body care and household items here, including fresh fruits and veges and pet food by the gram. Since 2021 the shop has also been offering organic frozen food by the gram: samosas, falafel, French fries, veges, berries and more.
As you marvelled at the interior you could also buy a coffee or refreshment.
Unfortunately this will be history from around mid of October, 2023: To make ends meet the shop keeper had to find a less expensive location, and the good news is: Anne Marie is moving to the neighbourhood of Walle. The new shop will have another name, but she wouldn't tell me yet. The new shop will be smaller, offering all the food stuff as before, but only a basic set of toiletries and bodycare.
While L'Epicerie was as far as you get from the carrots-and-dungarees cliche of a traditional organic grocery of the 1970ies, the second package-free shop in the Neustadt looks exactly like a traditional Bremen organic cornerstore 2.0: The dusty shop window of Füllkorn, with some wilted potted plants makes it difficult for passers-by to even spot the place. Inside everything is spotlessly clean of course, and there's also a coffee and refreshment option. Unfortunately the shop was closed when I was there, but I'm sure it's friendly and welcoming, too. They have a milk tapping machine from the Kaemena farm.
The youngest package-free shop in town is
Die Füllerei in Findorff which opened in February 2020. With a beautiful flower-bed in front of it you cannot miss the shop even though I couldn't make it here during their opening hours. Unlike the two shops in the Neustadt there's a vending machine for fresh milk from the Blockland. Just from the looks clearly my second favourite which, in 2023, wants to turn into a co-operative. Note that the shop is closed on Wednesdays.
The tram stop "Am Schwarzen Meer", (in)famous for a fastfood-and-beer kiosk popular among the city's enthusiastic football fans has become a destination for conscious eaters: At the end of the Steintor road you'll find both, a Sunday-open package-free convenience store and a friendly CSA farm shop.
The first one, Selfair, has by far the most liberal opening hours of all package-free supermarkets I've visited so far. It's a pleasant combination of a traditional organic cornershop, a contemporary package-free supermarket and an immigrant shop with a good selection of oriental-style bread, baklava, pickles and mezze. The latter aren't organic, nor are about 3/4 of the fresh fruit and greens. However, there's an abundance of loose-weight and pre-packaged organic food items, spices, sweets, beverages and more. There's tinned food and preserved food and dairy products in glasses, and almost all beverages come in returnable bottles. They also have a section with zero-waste household items and sustainable toiletries, and in general the shop is free from plastic foil packaging. Many of the organic veges, bread and cheeses are bio-dynamic and local, and most of the conventional food is produced in the region, with little agrochemicals.
On the Northern side of the tram tracks you'll find
a small and inviting farm shop, the
Solawi-Hofladen. Despite the name it's not
only a pick-up point for the members of the community-supported organic Sophienhof farm, but a cosy farm shop run by two bio-dynamic farms, the Sophienhof and the Lütjenhof, and an artisanal fair-trade coffee roasters', all from the greater region. Needless to say that you can have a coffee after having filled local grains and pulses from gravity bins and bought meat, eggs, cheese, veges and more.
On a former parking lot inside the disused production areal of the Kelloggs company you now find an urban gardening project producing organic veges and hops in raised beds: During the warm season the
Gemuesewerft is not only a nice beergarden, but also sells fresh organic greens according to the season just a few meters from where they are harvested.
Organic corner shops and supermarkets
Package-free sale of bakery items and cheeses over the counter, loose fruit and veges as well as dairy products and drinks in returnable bottles and glasses are of course the norm in all traditional organic convenience stores like the co-operative Oecotop in the Neustadt, the Bio-Eck in Grohn with some gravity bins for unpackaged grains, or the Kornkraft supermarket in Habenhausen which offers a day cafe and is part of a small local supermarket chain.
Traditional co-operatively driven convenience stores in Bremen are all open to the general public by now, and so is Abakus in Steintor founded in 1998 which in 2020 repeatedly was voted one of Germany's best organic groceries. The shop which doesn't hide its political views doesn't have a working web site, but sells loose-weight grains and cereals. When I was there again in summer 2020 there was however an information that they wouldn't order more muesli unless the demand by members of the co-operative was bound to increase.
Body care and nice things
During the nice season Der Fährmann Antony ("Antony the ferryman") sells hand-made natural shea and cocoa butter from Ghana on a mobile booth on the Kaemena farm in Blockland. Come with your own jar, and he will happily fill it for you. The opening hours below should however be taken with a grain of salt – when the weather is too cloudy or even rainy Anthony may decide that the effort of his bicycle tour out into the Blockland wouldn't match his sales expectation. In summer 2022 there were also shortcomings as deliveries from Ghana took weeks longer than usual, and during our stay in August 2022 we met him not before 4 pm.
Out of Bremen
If you take a bicycle tour to Lilienthal (which – despite the fact that the Bremen tram no. 4 ends there –
isn't a part of Bremen, but a municipality in the adjacent state of Lower Saxony) you have even more options – check out the Lilienthal post.
[Bremen, organic, lunch, coffee, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, vegan, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, bodycare, gifts, butcher, fashion, solawi, CSA]
Friday, 21 July 2023
Organic supermarkets can be found on almost every second street corner in Munich but density varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.
Organic supermarket chains
In addition to a local organic supermarket chain, Vollcorner (consisting of about twenty markets in Munich and around), Munich hosts several branches of Germany's biggest organic chains Alnatura (14 markets in Munich and surroundings) and Denn's (10 markets in the greater Munich area, seven within the city boundaries).
Until mid of 2023 Munich was also the home of the Basic supermarket chain with 11 markets – early in 2021 this chain restricted its activities to South Germany and Austria and sold all other nation-wide branches. However, these measures
did not stop the decline of the company driven by management failures, which
resulted in an insolvency. The shops were taken over by the conventional
teGut. Under the
only a few branches will continue as organic supermarkets, the Munich "Basic" branches are expected to continue under this name until the end of 2023. In July, 2023 I found the first conventional product in a Basic branch: a fairly traded hazelnut chocolate of the "teGut" brand had such an unexpected low price that I checked labels and the small print. I will continuously update this
blog on new developments.
With Basic on the verge, there are two regional full retail chains left in town:
Landmann's with branches in several Bavarian
towns, but only one within the Munich city boundaries (including an artisanal butcher's counter run by the Biometzgerei Pichler), and Vollcorner
which does not have branches outside the Munich S-Bahn network. In addition
there are still
many small independent supermarkets, often equipped with a Biomarkt sign, and even some homely, surviving corner shops.
Even without any gravity bins for loose weight dry food Vollcorner has made notable efforts to support zero-waste shopping for a long time. Shopping here you can be sure not to (indirectly) support huge, globally operating multinational concerns as Vollcorner consistently delists organic brands sold to such companies. So you will find neither Logocos brands (Logona, Lenz, Sante, Heliotrop, Fitne) anymore since the company was bought by L'Oreal (which is partially owned by Nestle), nor Pukka tea (Unilever). Wine-lovers may also collect the corks made from natural cork and return them for recycling at any Vollcorner shop.
On weekdays most organic supermarkets keep open between 9 am and 8 pm, Vollcorner markets open at 8 am. Saturday opening hours vary, the big retailers and Vollcorner close at 8 pm. All groceries except
the Biokultur supermarket in the basement of the central train station are closed on Sundays.
Apart from these full range retailers there is a small local food only chain, not offering any toiletries or detergents: Herrmannsdorfer specialises in meat products, bakery items and beer produced in the Herrmannsdorfer Landwerkstätten in Glonn, somewhat outside Munich. The shops close quite early, but if you come during daytime they stock sufficient dry food, dairy products, fruits, veges, sweets and more to spare you the trip to a second shop. Unlike the Basic chain Herrmannsdorfer allows you to buy meat in your own containers.
In 2015 a branch of the hyped Italian Eataly delicatessen chain opened within the architectonically interesting glass and iron construction of Schrannenhalle near Viktualienmarkt. It's true, they offer a good range of organic products, and organic food items are labelled as such on the shelves, but it's nevertheless a disappointing experience: Almost no fresh organic fruit and veges (not even the fresh herbs are organic), only pre-packaged organic meat (forget about the well-assorted meat counter), and the organic wines and spirits in the basement are not marked "bio" on the shelves, so it's very hard to find them.
If you want to support the local economy, both Vollcorner, Munich-based Basic and Herrmannsdorfer shops are all fine, but you may prefer to support independent markets where the owners are actually running the stores and create a homely and personal atmosphere. Often you will find products not on sale by the big chains.
When traditional Grüner Markt chain closed down end of September 2014, their main house in the Altperlach neighbourhood made an exception. Housed in a vault it has a pleasant italophilic, somewhat venerable atmosphere, definitely worth a visit. The perfect surroundings when shopping for delicatessen, and a must-go during the Christmas season. It's now dubbed Mohrhof Perlach.
The other big independent is Schmatz ("smack") in the Glockenbach neighbourhood. Step by if only for the lovely decoration of their bodycare section. Kids are invited to play in an old-fashioned corner shop, and selected items are lovingly set on display. It's the only organic supermarket playing music in the background. By the end of 2018 they issued a ban on fresh herbs in plastics packing, and in 2022 there's a dedicated unpackaged shelf with dry food in deposit glasses.
For the picturesque yet upmarket farmshop feeling in the city aim for Stemmerhof on top of the Sendlinger Berg. Once upon a time a wealthy village farm opposite the village church the nicely restored houses are now the home of an organic supermarket and a range of small owner-run shops. The supermarket's butcher's cum delicatessen disk will happily sell lunch snacks to eat on the spot or to take-away. The same enterprise also runs a second branch in the suburb of Grünwald, just a street crossing opposite of Alter Wirt hotel and restaurant.
In the posh Lehel neighbourhood near the Eisbach river within the Englischer Garten park you'll find an independent organic supermarket with a touch of a spice and greens bazaar, the Bioparadies Biomarkt. Its friendly staff was even willing to open after closing time, to sell me a left-over bread on a Saturday afternoon. The serviced bakery and cheese counter is also the place to refill your spice jars with loose-weight herbs and spices. The supermarket is conveniently located opposite the tram stop "Paradiesstraße".
The former Erdgarten supermarket a ten-minutes walk away from Pasing train station (or two minutes from Pasing Marienplatz square) reopened as a branch of the local Vollcorner chain September, 2019 and continues to serve organic and vegetarian wholefood lunch as well as coffee and cake. They also have a nicely decorated bodycare section. Whether they'll continue to serve knitters with a fine selection of organic wool I am not aware of.
If you by chance happen to strand near the Klinikum Harlaching hospital, don't dispair: two tramstops in North-Eastern direction on the left side (just follow the tram line along Grünwalder Str.) you'll find Biowelt, a crammed independent organic supermarket with a superb selection of both, bodycare and frozen convenience products: All you need if visiting a friend or relative in the hospital in urgent need of a proper meal. Starting with lunch time they offer a helping of organic soup and a small selection of snacks. You may ask for a sandwich made on the spot. The shop also has a zero waste corner with dispensers for legumes and a small selection of other dry food as well as an assortment of dried fruit. Make sure to step by check-out to weigh your containers before you fill them.
Attending a conference at one of the huge Bogenhausen hotels near Effnerplatz? Your lunch break should be sufficient to follow Bülowstraße in Western direction to Herkomerplatz. Here you'll find not only a Herrmannsdorfer butcher's shop cum grocery cum eatery and the Hofpfisterei bakery branch next to it, but also a pleasant family-owned organic supermarket dubbed Biovolet. The Riemensberger family placed some bar tables in the entrance area to have a snack, and there is a second branch in Eching (formerly a Grüner Markt branch). Pay with your EC (VPay) debit card, and they donate a few cent to the BioBoden co-operative which buys farm land in order to lease it to organic farmers. On Thursdays you will receive a 10 percent discount if your shopping cart is worth more than 50 euros.
In the neighbourhood of Schwabing one of the oldest organic groceries in town is located, these days rather boringly dubbed Echt Bio Markt which is the brand of a network of small-scale independent organic supermarkets. The pleasant, traditional shop in Tengstraße offers refill for organic household detergents.
However. not all supermarkets of this brand have been long established: The independent owner-run Echt Bio Markt in Nymphenburg was opened during the lock-down of the covid-19 pandemic: As its name suggests
Bio am Romanplatz is the perfect place
to shop for provisions at the tram hub at Romanplatz.
Another cosy neighbourhood with many small-scale shops and interesting food places is the Westend at the Western side of Theresienwiese (in)famous as the Oktoberfest location. Right at the border to the Schwanthalerhöhe neighbourhood, at the North-Eastern corner of the park at Georg-Freundorfer-Platz another bunch of young people is running a neighbourhood grocery dubbed Nicos Naturkost. It's just a friendly, clean and unspectactular shop with a superb selection of teas and tisanes of two small-scale organic brands usually not to be found in Munich organic supermarkets. If you stay in the vicinity for a longer period of time: They have a whiteboard where regular customers can co-ordinate orders of products which the shop usually does not stock.
There's only one Sunday-open organic supermarket in Munich, the Biokultur in the basement of the main train station. It's sister branch in the newly developed neighbourhood of Riem on the plot of the former Munich airport can be found inside the
Riem Arcaden shopping mall, sporting the only organic cafe in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately neither the cafe nor the supermarket are open on Sundays or public holidays.
If you happen to take the S7 urban train in southern direction to the municipality of Höhenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn take the time to visit Roberts Bio-Genussmarkt on the premises of a former farmyard. The spacious, pleasantly refurbished and nicely decorated barn with its dark wooden shelfs makes it easy to spend some time on a coffee and cake in the included cafe area. When the weather is nice sun-shaded outdoor seating is provided. The former village of Höhenkirchen is part of the Mangfall bicycle route from Munich to Rosenheim, and this is a pleasant place for a break.
By 2016 the first wrapping free supermarket made it into town: Check the zero-waste post for reviews. That post also has details on the zero-waste efforts of both, Vollcorner and Basic supermarkets.
Co-operatives with membership schemes
In the 1970ies and 1980ies many organic neighbourhood shops in Western Germany were co-operatively organised and sold to members only. In the 1990ies most of the surviving shops like the "Abakus" in Bremen opened to the general public, with discount schemes for members. To my knowledge, there's no such surviving shop in Munich, but recently established co-operatives such as "Deine Alternative" in Zorneding continue this inclusive approach.
As community supported agriculture (CSA) has an increasing appeal to city dwellers (the biggest one in Munich is the Kartoffelkombinat), the concept of an organic supermarket for members only came back to town in 2016, with
the Ökoesel ("eco donkey"), by now a small, yet full-fledged organic supermarket
in Nymphenburg near Leonrodplatz, focussing on
When the founders of Munich's oldest organic
supermarket, Lebascha in Haidhausen,
were to pass over the shop to a younger generation in summer 2022, the Ökoesel folks stepped in. Although both branches focus on a membership scheme, they are neighbourhood groceries open to everyone. As a non-member you'll simply pay non-subsidised (i.e. higher) prices.
summer 2021, another approach followed with the establishment of the Foodhub co-operative in Giesing, next to the lovely cafe "Shotgun Sister" and an organic bakery shop.
If you live in the vicinity you may consider joining this special organic food co-op which runs on the principle of solidarity: every member works three hours per month for or in the project and what's sold in the supermarket (predominantly regional produce) is decided democratically by its members. The shop concentrates on pre-packaged food, household and toiletry items, with the exception of loose weight fruits and veges, a small number of dry food gravity bins offering grains and nuts, and the self-service bread and rolls section. The household cleaning and bodycare shelves are filled with products in environmentally friendly packaging and focus on re-use (like the bamboo paper kitchen paper which can be washed and thus used several times) or little packaging through bigger volumes. There are plans for a zero-waste station to refill cleaning agents.
When I visited the shop at their open day in autumn 2021 I was surprised to not find a serviced fresh food counter given the fact that Karl Schweisfurt of Herrmannsdorfer Landwerkstätten is one of the three legal heads of the co-operative, most likely due to the fact that such a counter needs to be staffed.
No membership fee is required for becoming a member of the on-line market platform Marktschwärmer.
Marktschwärmerei pick-up hub in the neighbourhood of Milbertshofen. If you decide to join, you can order food, beverages, sweets and more from predominantly organic producers in and around Munich.
The following organic supermarkets do no longer exist although you will still find references to them on the web:
- Alnatura Innenstadt, Sonnenstr. 23 (to re-open after reconstruction work)
- Biochicco, Ohlmüllerstr. 19 corner Zeppelinstr.
- Biomarkt CM, Schlüsselbergstr. 13 (Berg am Laim)
- Denn's w/in Hofstatt mall, Sendlinger Str. 12a, basement (city centre)
- Die Bio-Bäuerin, Peter-Wolfram-Str. 31 (Gronsdorf)
- Entenbach Naturkost,
- Johannisgarten Naturkost, Johannisplatz 21 (Haidhausen)
- Gut zum Leben, Motorama Ladenstadt, Rosenheimer Str. 30-32 (Haidhausen)
- Tagwerk-Bioladen Hofgut Riem, Isarlandstr. 1 (Riem)
- Marktschwärmerei Werksviertel, c/o Cafe Guatemuc, Atelierstr. 1
- Veganz, Baldestr. 21 corner Auenstr., including self-service cafe Goodies
- Radix, Thalkirchner Str. 88 (Isarvorstadt)
- Vollcorner Ludwigsvorstadt, Lindwurmstr. 80
[Munich, Au, Bogenhausen, Haidhausen, Harlaching, Lehel, Maxvorstadt, Nymphenburg, Schwabing, Pasing, Hoehenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn, Englischer_Garten, Mangfallradweg, Mangfall_cycle_route, organic, supermarkets, grocery, lunch, snacks, deli, Italian, CSA]
Thursday, 20 July 2023
Bavarian opening hour regulations are far from liberal, hence your shopping options on Sundays and after 8 pm are limited to, uhmmm, petrol stations, more or less. Not the kind of place you'll expect to find organic food, toiletries or other necessities in eco-conscious quality.
But the times, they are changing, and for the organic Munich traveller or inhabitant, there's no reason to despair anymore. Your best bet are railway stations, namely Hauptbahnhof (main station) and Ostbahnhof.
At the Hauptbahnhof enter the basement from Elisenhof in Western direction, following the S-Bahn signs (if you come from the trains head straight ahead to the Eastern exit to enter the basement). Opposite the entry to S-Bahn (urban trains) you'll find Biokultur, a full-fledged organic supermarket. It's your only choice for fresh organic fruit and veges on Sundays and offers everything you'll expect from a full retailer (including wine, household cleaning items, toiletries, ...) as well as a pleasant shopping atmosphere. Before the covid-19 pandemics, this organic supermarket kept open after 8 pm, but shortage of staff applies here as well, so in 2023 the shop still keeps open on Sundays, but without extended opening hours.
There's a second branch in the neighbourhood of Riem, without a permit to keep open on Sundays.
Next to the Biokultur at Hauptbahnhof you'll find a branch of the local organic Hofpfisterei bakery chain, the only one open on Sundays. As all of their branches it also stocks a small range of organic drinks, dry and dairy products as well as organic cold cuts. On weekdays they offer a selection of yummy organic sandwiches to take with you,
both, vegetarian and omnivore, most of them with gorgeous German sourdough bread – perfect provisions for train travellers. On weekends only buttered prezls ("Butterbrezn") are available for take out.
Unfortunately the Hofpfisterei branch at Ostbahnhof train station does no longer keep open on Sunday mornings, but a five minutes brisk walk from the station you'll find one of those family-owned bakeries that are becoming so rare these days. Leave the station at Orleansplatz exit, cross the square and follow the tram tracks along Wörthstraße. At the end of Bordeauxplatz square, corner Metzstraße, you'll find Cafe Reichshof run by the Neulinger family, a lovely coffeehouse cum pastry shop. Treat yourself with their delicious organic cakes, icecream or a savory organic snack like the traditional Bavarian Weißwurst (sausage) breakfast. If you don't feel intrigued to stay shop from a huge range of organic bread, rolls, and cakes. You can also buy a small selection of prepackaged cheese and meat cuts, butter, milk and jams from the fridge opposite the coffee machine.
Starting in 2022, the other Neulinger branches in Neuhausen, the meat-packing district of Ludwigsvorstadt and the wholesale market area in Sendling have been keeping open on Sundays and public holidays, too, though some only for breakfast.
Everything you need for a sumptious breakfast or cold snack (except fresh fruit and veges) can be bought from Fritz Mühlenbäckerei near Rosenheimer Platz. Between 1987 and 2010 this cosy artisanal baker's shop was the headquarter of one of Munich's eldest organic bakeries. Now the scent of warm bread fresh from the oven is gone – all the production takes place in modern facilities in the outskirts of Aying. The shop however is still here and open on Sunday mornings, including a small grocery section equipped with a large fridge.
About ten years after the Fritz bakery moved their bakery from the Haidhausen backyard to Aying the bakers came back to town with a bread bakery in Glockenbachviertel. The former cafe re-opened in June 2020 – buy your daily artisanal bread and watch the bakers at work.
If you happen to be in Grünwald on a Sunday morning (or another day of the week during working hours) make sure to buy the best German sourdough bread in the entire Munich area from Lokalbäckerei Brotzeit. Their bread workshop is located on the premises of the Alter Wirt hotel, with a separate entrance and a small lunch cum cafe counter where you can choose a roll and from a range of all organic spreads, coldmeat, cheeses and more to get your customised sandwich.
Back at Ostbahnhof trainstation, directly at the southern exit of the U-Bahn station into the Ostbahnhof building you'll find the place that will save your life after 8pm: This branch of the DM-Drogeriemarkt chain does not only stock the usual excellent range of natural bodycare, organic dry products, vegan alternatives and eco-friendly household helpers, but boosts a capable selection of dairy products, eggs and even a freezer stocked with organic pizza, berries, icecream, ... Unfortunately – and unlike other DM branches – organic choices and certified natural cosmetics aren't clearly marked on the shelves, so watch out for organic and natural cosmetics labels, and brands.
A few steps from the urban train stop Johanneskirchen, directly located at the bus stop "Johanneskirchen Bhf" there's an 24x7 open vending machine selling Bavarian produce: Not everything from the so-called Regiomat is organic, but you can buy organic eggs, UHT milk, cheese, chocolate pudding, cream and ready-made tomato sauce.
By the summer 2020 the concept of vending machines for products of smaller local farms finally had made it into Munich town, too: The Erntebox vending machines offer eggs and chicken meat, sausages, cheese, pasta and fruit jam, not everything organic, but most likely from farmers around Munich with a focus on sustainability. There's one at the Grünspitz in Giesing, a hotspot for urban agricultural and greening projects, and another at busy Berg-am-Laim-Straße in the Eastern neighbourhood of Baumkirchen. To find the latter isn't easy: Follow the shop windows of the (conventional) Aumüller bakery in in city (Western) direction and stop when the house turns at an angle. Unfortunately the number of certified organic products has been decreasing here: When I re-checked in summer 2023, the organic sausages were gone, but there's again a good selection of organic cheeses.
[Munich, Gruenwald, Johanneskirchen, Haidhausen, Sendling, organic, coffee, gifts, snacks, lunch, breakfast, bakeries, grocery, supermarkets, trainstation, Regiomat, covid, corona]
Friday, 30 June 2023
Organic supermarkets may introduce a larger audience to sustainable organic produce and thus spare the environment, but do not necessarily help to reduce the amount of one-way packaging, save plastics. As a conscious consumer you will without doubt prefer non-prepackaged fruit and veges, available from all organic groceries, supermarkets and market boothes, and hand your bag over the bakery counter, making it verbally clear that you do not need a paper bag, to avoid paper waste when buying bread and rolls.
You're also safe if you restrict your shopping of dairy products, juices and soft drinks to returnable glass bottles. Some organic shops (such as Vollcorner) offer a small selection of wine in deposit bottles. Since 2021 we also have seen the gradual arrival of dry food, preserves and spreads in returnable glasses formerly only used for yogurts.
Starting in 2017 the more dedicated organic supermarket chains have been introducing measures to reduce packaging and allow customers to bring their own containers to fill with selected goods.
Unless stated otherwise all shops mentioned in this post will help you out with clean and empty reusable glass jars or organic cotton bags which you – depending on the shop – can either buy or lend if you forgot to bring your own.
Package-free food and household necessities
Early in 2016 the city's first crowd-funded vegetarian zero-waste supermarket Ohne ("without") opened its doors, followed by a
second branch early in 2019. Now, end of June 2023
this is history: The insolvency, following the closing of other independent
owner-run package-free supermarkets earlier this year, leaves the Eastern,
Northern and central neighbourhoods without a place to effortlessly replenish
store cupboards without producing package waste.
Gone the days of the pandemic spring and summer of 2020 when zero-waste groceries were blooming in town: Approximately at the same time as the Westend got its (now closed) neighbourhood shop, Servus Resi opened in Obersendling right before the lockdown in March 2020, in a non-descript middle of no-where near the Siemenswerke former industrial area. Don't let you fool by the uninviting environment at a noisy car road – what you'll find here is a busy neighbourhood gem nicely furnished in light wood, with a superb selection of dried herbs and spices aside the usual dry food, and a nicely arranged selection of household items. The greengrocery section is rather limited – local organic apples and potatoes in late autumn 2020 –, and there are no dairy or other food requiring cooling, but the shop offers both, liquid body care products and household chemicals from refill stations. Everything is supervised by the friendly shop-owner, Chrissy (not Resi) herself, and if you wish to get in touch with people from the neighbourhood take the burden to come here even from other parts of town.
In Laim Nebenan unverpackt ("package-free next door") followed in summer 2020. The latter is organised as a co-operative (though the location next to a co-operative bank is purely accidental) and sports a
small neighbourhood coffee place. They offer a very good selection of dry food, fresh fruit and veges, but less dried herbs and spices and no spirits. You can however buy wine and their selction of condiments and preserves in one-way glasses have the effect that you can do all the regular daily shopping here in one place if you don't come with more advanced expectations.
Half a year earlier, in January, 2020 another
co-operative, Deine Alternative ("your alternative") in Zorneding, opened on the premises of the former Raiffeisen co-operative bank, just a few steps from the urban train station.
When you get inside you will however immediately forget about its past as a bank, the shop is carefully and pleasantly decorated, with wooden furniture and equipped with a proper Italian coffee machine for a break in between. Most of the often local produce sold here is organically certified or at minimum sustainably produced, though it would be nice if conventional loose-weight products were clearly marked. In addition to the gravity bins and containers with dry food there's a decent selection of dried herbs and spices, sweets, bread, some confectionery, a small selection of fresh organic greens and veges, cheese and milk from the Nirschlhof organic farm (but interestingly enough no whole-meal flour or oils, vinegars or spirits by the litre). In a separate room you can buy toiletries, household chemicals and items supporting a zero-waste lifestyle. Everyone is welcome, but members of the co-operative pay less.
North of Zorneding, in the municipality of Poing, the co-operative
Bunte Bohne ("coloured/colourful bean") with its zero-waste supermarket cum cafe is facing a hard time as of June, 2023. Visit and support the place while you still can.
The neighbourhood of Trudering (a more than 1200 years old former village and suburb in the Eastern part of Munich) does not have a dedicated zero waste supermarket, but twice a month, on Tuesday afternoons, an indoor farmer's market dubbed Tante Trude ("Auntie Trudie") keeps popping up in the neighborhood associations' offices. Organic farmers offer local produce, and you can donate to the Trudelade project: home-cooked jam made from abandoned fruit trees in the neighbourhood (you'll get a jar as reward).
South-South-West of Munich, the city of Wolfratshausen (the endpoint of the S7 urban train) likewise sports a package-free shop centrally located at the Obermarkt market place: Ohnverpackt, another zero-waste shop opening within the corona lockdown in the spring of 2020,
is even certified organic. The few conventional products of regional origin are clearly marked as an exception. It does not only offer the usual dry food and household chemicals, but also a good selection of cheese and antipasti. What you won't find are fresh fruits and veges, meat and sausages.
There's a small day cafe, unfortunately all closed on Mondays.
South of Munich, directly located at the S-Bahn station of Neubiberg the owner of the conventional Edeka supermarket opened a side project next door,
Hertscheck Unpacked which hopefully attracts people who usually wouldn't buy off the conventional supermarket tracks.
Although not marked most of the unpackaged dry food is organic – the shop assistant explained that since the shop itself isn't certified but fills the gravity bins and glass jars from bigger packages it isn't allowed to declare the products as "bio". There's also a good selection of loose-weight natural body care (both, in solid and liquid form) and household chemistry from brands I haven't found elsewhere. You can refill organic gin and regional (though not organic) whisky. The highlight of the shop are grow cabinets with special lamps where a good selection of herbs is grown, naturally free from agrochemicals. For city dwellers the place most certainly is worth
a little bicycle ride (through the beautiful eco park Umweltgarten Neubiberg where an organic farmer's market is held on Thursday afternoons) or urban train tour even though the place has less liberal opening hours than the conventional supermarket next door.
Fun fact: The former premises of the Edeka supermarket now host a Vollcorner organic supermarket.
In smaller municipalities, (urban) train stations usually are the only public (and sustainable) transport hub and as such a natural place for zero-waste supermarkets. So I was glad to find a new (in 2022) co-operatively organised organic zero-waste supermarket in Unterföhrung, next to the S-Bahn train station. The shop dubbed
UFG (short for "unverpackt, fair, gemeinsam" – "unpacked, fair, together")
is open to everyone, with a 10 percent discount scheme for members.
It does not only offer dry food, condiments and household items, but also bread, rolls, cakes, dairy products and fresh, predominantly local fruits and veges. On Thursday afternoons you also may buy local organic meat and sausages, cheese and other fresh artisanal organic products from a mobile booth of the Tagwerk co-operative.
There's a small lunch cafe offering organic soups, quiches and sandwiches as well as cereal bowls, coffee, smoothies, tea and cake, all vegetarian, often vegan. Unfortunately you have to register with an app service to take your food with you in a returnable bowl or box, and nevertheless may have to come back to the shop to return it. So better bring your own boxes.
In March 2019 a tiny neighbourhood shop specializing in natural home cleaning opened in the Glockenbach neighbourhood: At Abgefüllt & unverpackt ("bottled and unpacked") the singer of the Munich-based band "Cat Sun Flower" warmly welcomes customers and passers-by and helps to (re)fill empty bottles with organic liquid household detergents. At the time of writing this shop was the only one in Munich selling washing powder by weight. In addition there are eco-friendly dishwasher tabs, body and hair soaps, fairly traded natural facecream in returnable glasses, towels, as well as upcycled and fairly traded bags and toiletry accessories.
About 20 years ago, Munich got its first – and to my knowledge only – organic department store centrally located a few steps from the Isartor: It consists of the city's first branch of the Basic supermarket chain with a self-service cafe on the ground floor and both, a self-service restaurant and a fashion and beauty store on the first floor. The latter,
Beauty & Nature, is a reliable source of organic clothes (with a focus on women and children), body care, home decoration, toys, dietary supplements and all types of sustainable household items including shoe shine, candles, seeds, cutting boards, or floor clothes.
Long anticipated, they started to offer refill for household detergents of the Sonett brand by the end of 2021, with a 10 percent discount. Since the staff is knowledgeable, friendly and helpful, do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions.
In autumn 2016 the local Vollcorner
supermarkets received an official permit by the Munich Department of Public Order (Kreisverwaltungsreferat) to fill customers' jars and boxes with
cheese, antipasti, processed meat products or cake. The Basic supermarket chain followed in summer 2017, while independent convenience stores often had done so anyway. What's missing are customers bringing appropriate containers or at least asking
the staff to fill their orders into returnable glass jars (Vollcorner, Lebascha and others) or stainless steel containers (Basic) provided by the shop itself. So be brave! You can make a difference!
To avoid misunderstandings it is advisable to clearly point to your box (or ask for the deposit container) before placing your order at the sales counter and tell the staff to tape the receipt to it. Otherwise you may end up not sparing any waste: In the beginning the staff at the Basic butcher's disk would use the sheet of plastic-covered paper they'd usually wrap the purchase with to hand it over to you, along with the receipt taped onto the paper bag they otherwise would have used as outer packaging. In the mean time they got used to the procedure but were ordered to decline customer requests to buy meat this way. Since they started to provide stainless steel boxes for a deposit of 7 EUR there's however no excuse for one-way packaging here anymore. Artisanal organic butcher's shops will also fill meat into boxes you provide. The Herrmannsdorfer groceries (e.g. the one at Max-Weber-Platz) reward you with a few cents discount per saved packaging.
Until the end of 2022 Basic supermarkets had gravity bin dispensers for pasta, nuts, dried fruit, sweets, grains and more. But since
the company announced threatening insolvency these have been removed and the package-free offerings were reduced to fruits and vegetables as well as food from the serviced bakery and butchers' counters.
For a little while all Basic supermarkets in Munich offered detergents for refill, but they seem to have disappeared, too. Early in 2023 I found however containers to return empty cleaning agents bottles of the Sonett brand at the main branch in Bogenhausen – the producer is collecting them for controlled re-cycling into new bottles.
The shops of the nation-wide operating Alnatura chain never offered refill dispensers. However, it has been increasing the range of products in returnable jars and bottles continously since 2021 – among others fairly traded nut butters, a number of dry products and even ketchup.
Dried fruits and nuts and (as a recent addition) vegan savoury spreads in refundable glasses as well as package-free toilet paper can also be bought from Vollcorner supermarkets. Their huge flagship store at Theresienwiese (with butcher's counter and lunch cafe) also experimented with a milk vending machine but this has been discontinued since 2019. Since 2022 there is however a dedicated shelf offering an impressive range of products in deposit glasses.
By the end of 2020 a number of conventional supermarket chains had introduced refill stations for dry food, too, but since you still have to do a lot of careful reading in front of the shelves to shop climate-friendly products, I won't mention them here, with one exception: the huge Tegut branch that opened in the Elisenhof shopping centre next to the main train station
in December 2020. This supermarket chain really gives their customers a choice – all organic products are easily to recognise thanks to a light-green label on the shelves, and there's a great number of them in all product categories. Given the sheer number of products on sale the impressive refill rack at the left-hand side of the entrance aisle comprises only a negligible fraction of total sales, but it's a good start, and the best: All products in the gravity bins are organic, and they have the biggest selection of package-free organic chocolate-covered sweets I've come across so far. There are grains, cereals, nuts, dried fruit, legumes and sweets, but no flour and surprisingly almost no pasta.
Although the supermarket has its entrance next to the Sunday-open (and if you ask me generally more pleasant) organic supermarket Biokultur in the Hauptbahnhof basement Tegut is closed on Sundays and public holidays as well as in the evening. When you have at minimum half an hour to change trains you will however reach to refill some of your dry food containers as long as you know how it works: Put your box onto the scales and choose "Tara-Bon". This will print a label. Fill the box and remember the product id on the lower end of the gravity bin. Put the filled box back on the scales and press the second "Bon" button beneath the "Tara-Bon" button. Now you will be asked to type in the product id. Scan the bar code on the previously printed label with the hand scanner, and there you go: A receipt with a price tag will be printed for you. Seal your box with this second label and hurry up to the cash counter.
In Haidhausen the Lebascha neighbourhood grocery has been offering to fill all loose-weight products (cakes and bread, eggs, cheeses, olives, jelly gums and liquorice – only the latter is not organic) in bottles, jars and boxes customers brought along. When the shop was taken over by the Ökoesel co-operative dispensers for grains, nuts and the like as well as household chemicals were added, and you can
also buy all types of herbs and spices by the gram.
Ask for a deposit box in case you forgot to bring your own.
For home-made dried fruit stroll a few more steps down the street and step by Haidhauser Oase.
Household chemicals can be refilled at the Echt Bio Markt in Neuschwabing and at the Biochicco supermarket in the Au near Mariahilf-Platz. At the latter you can only refill original bottles of the Sonett label.
In Harlaching, the
independent Biowelt supermarket has a small zero-waste corner with dispensers for dry food, a good selection of loose-weight dried fruit and a dairy and butchers' counter where you can hand over your containers.
Once, sometimes twice a week farmers' markets are installed in many Munich neighbourhoods. Loose fruits and veges prevail here, and boothes selling organic produce (watch carefully for "bio" and "demeter" logos) will usually fill bread, cakes and pastries, antipasti, meat and dairy products into the containers you present. Notably at the boothes of the Tagwerk co-operative and the Hofbäckerei Steingraber you may be surprised to see that you're not the only one coming with her own boxes and jars.
On Saturday mornings you can find them next to the West-facing entry of Mariahilf church, in the neighbourhood of Au. Before the covid-19 pandemics all boothes (except the French fish monger) in the market block next to the church, right below the carillon, were organic,
but now it's no longer that easy. Therefore a comprehensive list: There are three organic market gardens (Biogärtnerei an der Isen alias Avanti Andi, Demeterhof Fahrenzhausen alias O'is bio and a third one also selling flowers and seedlings which you will immediately recognise when greeted with a friendly French accent). Put differently: Simply avoid the biggest greengrocery booth, "Helminger".
For meat, sausages, cheese and other dairy products there are the aforementioned two producers, and in addition the farm sale of Bergwinklhof Monigottsöd. The latter also offers a small selection of wine, but for good and knowledgeable advise on wines or non-alcoholic drinks to accompany a meal you'll better pay a visit to Uli Scheffler's organic wine trader's booth. While the juices are readly available in deposit bottles, returnable wine bottles are still very rare, and not used for high-quality wines.
If you feel adventurous on Thursday afternoons take the urban train S7 in direction Aying/Höhenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn/Kreuzstraße (or a bike ride) to the suburb of Neubiberg and pay a visit to the communal organic market on the pleasant premises of the Umweltgarten eco park, a true oasis within ugly suburbanity, with a small zoo, popular not only among kids. On Thursdays there's also an all-day market at Rotkreuzplatz. As on Mariahilfsplatz about half the boothes here are organic, though scattered all over the market area, with a cluster in direction Nymphenburger Straße.
Needless to say that the organic boothes on the famous Viktualienmarkt in the Munich city will happily support you when you make it clear that you want to use your own bags and containers. And the spring of 2021 did not only see the opening of an organic bakery in one of the solid market stalls in the northern part of the market, but also a tiny organic food shop for organic dry food grown and produced in the nearby Chiemgau region:
Satt und gut ("full and good") sells staple foods like grains, flour, eggs, honey and oil but also cookies, both pre-packaged and loose weight, partially from the smallest gravity bins I've seen so far. Note that this shop, unlike the market itself, is closed on Mondays
In Zorneding a small farmers' market is being held every Friday on the premises of the Biohof Lenz organic farm. Here you can buy local organic meat and meat products, cheese, bread, veges, and occasionally honey and bee products, wines and spirits. Although most stalls are organic there are a few exceptions offering conventionally produced specialities. The Lenz family's own farm shop keeps open at the same time and on Saturdays, but for buying their exceptionally good meat you should subscribe to their newsletter and order beforehand according to availability (you should be fast to answer). Unfortunately all the Lenz meat and sausages are vacuumized in plastic.
At the Western edge of town, in Pasing the organic market garden of Bio-Gärtnerei Kamlah has a farm shop open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. You can not only buy salads and vegetables grown here but also organic seedlings for your balcony or garden patch. The farm has also a market stall at the Pasinger Viktualienmarkt which keeps open all days except Sunday offering a huge selections of organic fruit and veges, but no seedlings.
While coffee is readily available from
loose weight convenience stores, tea drinkers aren't well catered for: Usually you will find some tisanes and one or two types of black tea. Fortunately specialist tea shops still exist, and as they sell loose weight teas by the gram don't be shy and ask them to fill your tea box.
Tee Gschwendner shop in the Asamhof backyard a few meters from the new pedestrian street of Sendlinger Straße this will work as long as the opening of your jar or box is wide enough for the shop assistant to fill it without touching it with her shovel. The franchise also sells conventional fare, so make sure to insist on organic quality – "Bio-Qualität" is the keyword. You'll find a decent selection of both, green, black and herbal teas, with and without aromatics. Bring a little time to stroll through the light and pleasant shop that has been at this place since the 1980ies, ask the assistant to show and suggest teas according to your taste and tell a little detail. When all your teas are filled into your jars you will be asked whether you fancy a tea sample, so it is smart to bring an additional small glass or jar.
Mind you that green tea doesn't store well in classic metal tea boxes as this material supports further oxidation processes.
In spring 2022 it turned out to be difficult to buy loose-weight organic flavoured tea as compliance to the EU regulation 2018/848 on organic products had not been established in time.
Coffee and food to take away
At Basic self-service cafes, Siggis coffee bar and restaurant and an increasing number of other coffee places you may lend a Recup coffee cup for a deposit which you can return at any other shop participating in the retour scheme.
Some like the Neulinger bakeries and the Basic self-service lunch bars will even give you a small discount for sparing the environment.
Most of the eateries reviewed here will fill your food into the boxes you provide for take-away as long as you make this clear before they start their usual routine which still means one-way packaging. Sushi to take away is available from Sushiya, and they will happily accept your bento boxes with your order.
Organic supermarkets which reduced their zero-waste approach
Between 2017 and 2022 supermarkets of the Basic chain had a clear focus on package- and plastic-free daily supplies. In 2023 the management stopped all of these efforts during the insolvency process, and the Basic branches, now owned by teGut went back to where they came from: being an ordinary supermarket, offering organic products only.
- Der plastikfreie Laden, Schlossstr. 7 (Munich's first zero-waste shop, also known as "Plastikfreie Zone", now online only)
- Mutternaturladen, Grünwalder Str. 244
- Mutternaturladen, Tumblinger Str. 45 (inside the Bahnwärter Thiel area
- Ohne, Schellingstr. 42
- Ohne Haidhausen, Rosenheimer Str. 85
- Naturverpacktes Westend Pur, Heimeranstr. 51a
- Evis – ab ins Glas, Pollinger Str. 11, Gilching
- Lela Lose, Freisinger Str. 3, Erding
[Munich, Neubiberg, Erding, Gilching, Poing, Trudering, Unterfoehring, Wolfratshausen, Zorneding, Au, Haidhausen, Harlaching, Laim, Maxvorstadt, Pasing, Westend, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, market, supermarkets, lunch, bakeries, butcher, tea, bodycare, household, sushi, wine]
Sunday, 04 June 2023
Hauptbahnhof (main station) replaced Jena Paradies as changing hub for ICE long distance trains in Thuringia some time ago, and given the fact that the city's beautiful old town is not far away from the station this is good news for all who have a little time between corresponding trains.
If you have ten minutes this is sufficient to buy an
organic chai latte or a fairly traded (yet not organic) coffee drink with organic milk at Coffee Fellows, a Munich-based coffee chain. Bringing your own mug will save you 25 cents, or use a Recup return cup. Otherwise you will get a plastic-coated one-way cup for take away which (hopefully) from June 2020 will be replaced by a home-compostable plastic-free one. If you have the time stay and have your coffee in a glass or creamware cup. They also offer two types of organic softdrinks — make sure to take the ones labelled "bio", unfortunately those come in one-way plastic bottles.
A better selection of pre-bottled organic drinks (also in one-way plastics) as well as pre-packaged sweets, nuts and dry food, in addition to natural body care you'll find at the Rossmann Express drugstore on the shopping aisle between the tracks. As Rossmann stocks a lot of conventional products make sure to stick to organic brands when in a hurry: "Alverde", "Lavera", "Weleda" and "Sante" are certified natural, food and sweets of the "EnerBio" and "Veganz" brands certified organic.
If you have half an hour of changing time between your trains there's a 100 percent organic supermarket just a few steps in direction of the old town where the nation-wide operating Alnatura chain is running one of their convenience stores. Unfortunately it's not part of the train station's shopping mall and hence closed on Sundays, public holidays or late in the evening.
[Erfurt, organic, vegan, snacks, lunch, supermarkets, grocery, trainstation, coffee, covid, corona]